The things that can be said

Losing people can make you quantify who they were, assessing the size of the hole left. When more than one person dies around the same time, the measurements become hazy. They are going to be similar pains, and deeply unconnected at the same time. The two deaths are felt in totally unique ways, yet combine, a jigsaw of strangely matching pieces.

A dear aunt, someone I thought of regularly, even if I saw her only infrequently, joined the great beyond. This was sadly expected and she felt, ultimately, ready to find her next adventure. She truly lived larger than others. She had enjoyed two lives. More.

I can imagine with perfect clarity the tone and lilt of her bright greeting for those she would have finally seen again in the Otherworld. Parents and brother, the grandfather I never met but knew so much about. I did not visit her weekly or even monthly, nor speak on the phone with her – there’s a good chance I inherited my avoidance of answering calls from the way she would never pick up – but she was always present at every family event. Birthdays, Christmas, Anniversaries. If there was a party she could be invited to, she was, and you were guaranteed her attendance.

A woman whose personality was so expansive and singular to her. Things throughout the world have reminded me of my aunt, of how she might share an over-abundance of pleasure at something beautiful, or express her quick opinions on the state of affairs. I would have liked to cook for her again, once more. No one appreciated the little things the way she could, with absolute, committed joy, and no one else could drop the kind of instantaneous, easy curses as she did. She was, in all things, unapologetic for being herself.

And so I’m left thinking, no more of her loud amazement at something in the garden; no more of her carefully large hair and coordinated costume jewellery, which would look off on anyone else and yet, somehow perfect and gorgeous when worn by her; no more terrible, wonderful giant artificial flower arrangements filling her house, making the rooms nearly untraversable; no more of her perfume lingering after our long, long hugs; no more of her laughter and outrage and indignation and smiles and beaming pride for everything her family has done and will come to do. Those in the Otherworld have her now, we are left with memories.

~A

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In speaking, and death

That time comes. The king is dead. A structural shift in the family, to lose the patriarch, the grandfather. We are small and tenuously linked on that side. There exists tacit agreement of a bond rarely spoken, and a love barely expressed. Ours is a secret brotherhood where acknowledgement of familial ties is made more readily by a glance and a nod than anything else. A flock of black sheep.

The procession to his end of days was made through the plodding steps of someone ready for the quiet between lives. A long rest in the Beyond. Reunited not just with the grandmother and kin, but with Pete, and Butch, and Beauty; Honey, Harley, Maggot, Shadow… A host of most beloved dogs who crossed before him. No longer did he need to answer the question of his well-being with, “I’ll survive, given a bit of luck.” Luck would now bring easy peace instead.

Final days, we prepared, our visits overrun by unavoidable knowledge and half-guilty relief that he would not be forced to linger. And still he cared, mightily. He enquired about my writing again, again. I don’t know how to answer that question normally, not sure what is really being asked, so what can I possibly say when he is sitting at the right hand of Death? Nothing more than a soft, “It’s good.” He was old. Loved. Soon to be missed – whether soon was down to hours or days, it would come too rapidly. And so, simply, “It’s good.” Writing is lively. Bright thoughts, clear-minded, an activity with such forward momentum that the very wondering felt out of place in a hospital room of tubes and wires and roaming medical staff. He would be comforted by my future, but this still felt too much like boasting. He was old. Tired. Gods grant his wish to sleep for a week and into the evermore. We can meet again in time eternal. It’s okay. Be free of this.

Thursday. Early morning phone call. There is only one reason. Ave atque vale, Granddad.

~A

Doc Mugen

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You had a million names to us, all because your fur spanned twice your actual size. Under all that fine brown-grey, you were a slender cat. Doctor Fluff, Fluffer-puss, Flufftergon, Mister Fluff, and so forth. They called you “Jungle Love” at the Cat Haven. I think because you were the lovingest.

I went in search of you as a surprise gift, first seeing your picture online. A fluffy cat to be our Anniversary Cat. When they opened your cage door, you hesitated only a moment before coming out from the back and giving me what I would come to know as your customary greeting: a full-body rub, mashing your face into me, butting me as hard as you could. After such enthusiasm, we knew you approved of us. You didn’t want to ride home in the cat carrier, preferring your dad’s lap. He was your favourite person by far, and you sought him out to lay on at every opportunity.

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And laying was one of the things you did the best. The first day you were free to explore the house, we found you sprawled on the bed. You knew you were home. Whenever you could find a way to climb inside of something to curl up and sleep, you would. Boxes, baskets, under the blanket with us, and even inside the rabbit’s cage in a minute of inattention from me. But particularly, you would lay on your back in our arms. If we were ever to pick you up, you would roll over and stretch as far as you could.

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You had an extra sense for knowing when we had bought a rotisserie chicken and would hang out in the kitchen to give us one of your tiny, high-pitched, adorable and rare “aahh” meows, asking very nicely for us to share. Usually, we couldn’t resist and you would get a sliver of chicken. If we had let you, you would have eaten our turkey, spaghetti, and especially buttered toast as well. You would purr, stand tall, and wriggle your tail because you knew you were so beautiful. You would do the cutest little hop to ask for dinner.

Three years after we found you, almost to the day, you fell ill with urinary blockages. A week in and out of the vet hospital, and the vets couldn’t do any more for you. Though weakened, you purred for us today and we eased your suffering, taking that pain into our hearts instead. You’ll always be the Great Fluff. I love you, Doc. Be good.

~A

Chichiri

You were a tiny grey streak of lightning. It’s almost hard to believe we saw you at all. Your mama cat had brought you to our garage, knowing we feed the locals. Every cat on the block must know about this house. I had to wait patiently, watching under the car, and behind the cupboards, to finally see your bright face. Such a little thing, with unease for these unknowns, frightened of sounds and hasty movement. But you were already full of love. You would jump up to bump your head against the underside of the car (getting a bit greasy in the process), and you would rub all along the wall, and sometimes you would get so caught up in your love that you would accidentally rub against my knee as well.

I brought you fish, and you were an immediate fan. I don’t think you had been brave enough to come and get the kitty biscuits by the front door, and you were just a tiny kitten anyway, they weren’t ideal food for you. We got to know each other, with little pets and a bite or two when you were startled. By the time I could stroke your soft grey fur and have you sit in my lap, I decided you needed to come inside where it was warm, and there would always be fish for dinner. I placed your next meal inside the cat carrier, and you trotted inside without a second thought!

You didn’t like the bathroom and scared yourself more by trying to climb the shower curtain than anything else. We picked you up and made you lay in my lap, where you purred and purred. In that moment, you decided that inside was okay, because there was fish, and there were lots of soft pettings and your new favourite: chin rubs.

You grew into such a big boy, getting longer and longer. All the proportions of a lanky teenage lion. You would run and chase and always talk to me. You became known as our fancy cat, because you pranced around and liked to jump and twirl, and carry toys in your mouth. Regular cat toys seemed too small for you, and I brought home the big fuzzy orange Rat-Rat, which you loved immediately. There was a toy you could really rough-up, and you could still carry it around as you pleased. You were cheeky, scratching on the carpet right beside your scratch post and stealing socks.

It was always time for love, and you were glad to be picked up and cuddled. You also gave hugs by standing on your back legs and stretching up, pressing all your body against me. You followed me around the house and ran to the door to see the birds and chittered at them with your long whiskers flickering. You laid on the topmost platform on the cat tower, but you preferred to sleep somewhere near me. Shiny things on the floor made you nervous, and you had to bat at them to ensure they were no threat. You knew my tone of voice when I was calling you to chase a bug.

I don’t know what happened to take you away at only two years old, far too young for any cat to die. I just know that you were my kitten, and I miss you. I love you, Chichiri. I know you’re being fancy somewhere, my beautiful boy.

~A